Wish Upon a Provincial Life

For the inherent issues in Beauty and the Beast, notably the Stockholm Syndrome permeating in the core story, there is a motivated, charming idealism toward Belle. While the romance conveys centuries old bias, Disney’s update turns Belle against social norms.

In the beginning, Belle’s town is aghast – she reads books. Women can’t do that. They cook, they clean, they pose, as the other women do while Belle sings, and somehow she’s the weird one for wanting to be who she is. Belle rescues her father, not the other way around. Then she fends off Gaston’s advances, an aggressive bar-hopping male who thinks he deserves women. Were Gaston’s flirty “moves” not so accurate, he’d fall to parody. Yet, his galling alpha male gusto is portrayed fearlessly.

Beauty and the Beast represents the studio’s last push toward perfectionism

Social norms place Beauty and the Beast as a “girly” movie. It doesn’t have guns, much fighting, or explosions, so therefore it can’t be for boys. Of all the Disney animated properties though, it’s unfortunate marketing took a case study in harassment, then only directed it toward pre-teen girls. There’s infinitely more learned in Beauty and the Beast as to what not to do, compared to Disney’s submissive fairy tales prior.

The Beast changes over time. At first, he mirrors Gaston, suggesting a learned behavior, not surprising considering how the town looks down at women. Serenaded by Angela Lansbury in a montage, Beauty and the Beast changes its tenor. There’s an understanding, brought at supersonic speed thanks to the medium, if thoughtfully composed. The finale then isn’t Beast vs Gaston, so much as Beast versus his prior self.

Belle brings that change. The town celebrates this romance at the end. At first they exhibit snobbish reluctance, then acceptance. Paige O’Hara’s voice work is magnificent in making Belle this pure, even angelic force unlike the enchantress who initially cursed the Beast – she was done with sexism ages before and took drastic measures.

Animated magic brings this to life, masterfully drawn against dazzling backdrops. Characters ooze charm from their designs, music gives them life, and pacing never lets any of them run aground. More than a renaissance, Beauty and the Beast represents the studio’s last push toward perfectionism.

Video

A studio Disney’s size should care. They don’t though. Beauty and the Beast is all over the place in 4K, obnoxiously inconsistent. Where some frames flawlessly handle the tiniest pencil strokes, others appear to partly wiped by noise reduction; it’s possible to see digital remnants as tools struggle to differentiate noise from art (watch the buzzing as LeFou pops from the snowman for an example).

Significant ringing mars numerous shots, sometimes more subtle than others. In the worst, notable aliasing appears on the finer lines under the halos, as if a TV’s sharpness setting is cranked too high. Lighter instances hide from less discerning eyes. Certain backdrops look stiff, akin to a frozen grain structure. While brush strokes appear, they do so less than in better Disney 4K efforts (Lion King). This detail limitation causes a lack in natural clarity.

In other areas, Beauty and Beast shows superiority. With enhanced color, rosy cheeks on Belle and Mrs. Potts stand out more than before (if the color variation was visible at all on Blu-ray). Primaries firm up, dense and pure. With HDR, Lumiere’s flames gain dynamic energy, and the ballroom’s chandelier is given added zip. Otherwise, the application is sedate, even rudimentary in range.

Audio

In Atmos, a few expansions of the soundstage compared to previous mixes are noted. In forests, birds and insect noises jump into the height channels. In the opening shots, a waterfall splashes some water overhead. Rain then does the same later, nicely mixed as to naturally blend into the effects.

Song sequences capture the greatest range and split, using the stereos exceptionally well. As is par for Disney Atmos tracks, low-end response is meager, if sufficient.

Extras

Disney does not port over the Diamond Edition Blu-ray bonuses and that’s a shame since that two-disc release excelled, including a 150+ minute documentary. The only feature kept from that release is a commentary over the extended cut (and that is not offered on the 4K disc). A brief interview with Paige O’Hara discusses her career. For 20-minutes, there’s a fun roundtable chat with Disney’s music/songwriting crew. Walt’s appreciation for fairy tales comes into view for nine minutes, followed with footage taken during voice sessions. Disney TV stars rattle off a few facts about Beauty and the Beast in the final bonus.

Beauty and the Beast
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
5

Movie

While Beauty and the Beast isn’t without problematic elements, it’s also a film that turns its heroine independent and proud to be herself.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our Patreon-exclusive set of 56 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: